Irrigation is the artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall. Additionally, irrigation also has a few other uses in crop production, which include protecting plants against frost, suppressing weed growth in grain fields and preventing soil consolidation.
In contrast, agriculture that relies only on direct rainfall is referred to as rain-fed or dryland farming.
Irrigation systems are also used for dust suppression, disposal of sewage, and in mining. Irrigation is often studied together with drainage, which is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from a given area.
Irrigation has been a central feature of agriculture for over 5,000 years and is the product of many cultures. Historically, it was the basis for economies and societies across the globe, from Asia to the Southwestern United States.